Darrell Moore's office began using an electronic case file system in January.
Software expedites case file access
By Gina Carrington
Finding and gathering case information can be time-consuming for the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. But now, with a few strokes at a computer keyboard, all the information is instantaneously accessed – at least for 2010 cases.
In January, Greene County Prosecutor Darrell Moore’s office began scanning new case documents into an electronic management system called Prosecutor by Karpel.
Moore’s office spent $159,600 for the Karpel software, funded by an $85,500 technology grant from the Missouri Office of Prosecution Services and $74,100 from bad check fees.
Moore said about one-third of Missouri’s 150 prosecuting attorney’s offices use the Karpel system, but ideally, all would eventually use it. The system allows prosecutors to retrieve an individual’s previous case history from other counties as needed.
Case files include law enforcement reports, probable cause statements, charges filed by the prosecuting attorney, motions filed by attorneys on both sides of the case and any reports or letters from attorneys or other people involved. Physical evidence such as photographs, audio recordings and video also are uploaded into the system.
“We don’t have to chase a file down,” Moore said. “In the old days, if someone called me about a file, I would have to have a secretary go look for it. Now, I can just turn around and pull it up on my laptop and look at it.”
Public defenders also can find and download case files sent through the Karpel system via a password-protected server. Defense attorneys, however, are only able to access the electronic files via e-mail, though Moore hopes that would change so that they, too, can log into the server. For one thing, he said, some case files are so large they have to be sent in installments.
While District Defender Rod Hackathorn declined to comment for this story, Ryan Cole, a defense attorney and partner at Catt Cole & Martin LLC, said his office hasn’t had problems receiving the e-mail files, though they sometimes take a while to download.
The switch to electronic files will be a good thing in the long run, Cole said.
“It’s definitely going to cut down on our paper costs,” he added.
Benefits of an electronic file system aren’t limited to attorneys, though. Local citizens who are victims or witnesses to crimes will be able to get answers more quickly when they call Moore’s office to find out where a case stands. And for taxpayers, eventually, the system will cut costs for paper – and for personnel who handle the office’s paperwork, Moore said. Keeping data safe also is a key consideration, a lesson Moore said was learned from watching law firms struggle in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
“Their files were literally blown all over creation,” Moore said.
Moore said Greene County’s scanned files are backed up on a server daily by county information systems personnel.
Eventually, plans call for expanding the electronic system to include older case files, but Moore said it could be a while before pre-2010 files are converted, as his office relies on a fluctuating pool of college interns to scan the documents.
As a result of county budget restrictions, Moore’s office has lost one assistant prosecuting attorney and one investigator in the criminal division, and seven vacancies are unfilled as a result of the county’s 2009 hiring freeze, which remains in effect.[[In-content Ad]]